Right Understanding

The first, and most fundamental, precept in The Eightfold Path is Right Understanding (sometimes also called Right View). This step involves seeing the world and everything in it as it really is, not as we believe it to be or want it to be. Without this view, without seeing the truth of things or assuming we know it, everything that stems from that will be clouded — based on potential falsehood. Above all, we will bias what we want to be in deference to what is. In order to get to right understanding we much approach all things with a beginners mind.

This is not only an essential way of moving through life, but I believe we might find it to be especially helpful when we apply it to our interactions on social media. Because, services like Twitter and Facebook are designed for fast thoughts and pronouncements and do not encourage full explanations or deeper examinations. Therefore, it is all too easy to rush to judgement about what another thinks or believes. We easily allow our own immediate assumptions and reactions to take hold and our opinions to become truth.

An immediate reaction or response will most often be a shallow one that only leads to suffering, anger, argument or negativity. Perhaps more importantly, we gain nothing of value by rushing to judgment. We gain tremendous value and insight by taking the time to see a view — all views — in their completeness and with an open heart and mind. We will then more fully understand how beliefs are formed, where biases and emotions can influence fundamental truths, and how our own might benefit from such knowledge.

Instead, take a deep breath, maybe even two or three, to cool your immediate reaction. Then, perhaps you might begin with some questions. Why might that person believe that? Could there be a logic or wisdom within that view that you might learn to appreciate despite the fact you may not agree with it’s conclusion? Might there be a fundamental truth hidden within their conclusion despite your dissatisfaction with it’s delivery? If it is critical of you, might there be an action that you did to cause the other to feel this way? Or, perhaps more importantly, must this view bother you and cause suffering or can you simply let it pass?

If you open up a dialog with that person, start from a desire to understand — a place of compassion. Ask questions. Approach with empathy and a true desire to know where they stand and why. In the end, you may not find a suitable answer or find yourself still on disagreement. But, in order to have even the opportunity to get to an answer or agreement one must take the time to ask in the first place. To do that means to let go of your initial reaction and give way to the potential of understanding.

Ideas and beliefs do not form in a vacuum. They are usually the product of some perception or experience. Some of these may be the same as yours. Others may be vastly different. So different, in fact, that you immediately recoil from and reject them. Yet, these ideas likely formed from very similar places and likely for very similar reasons as yours. The opposite side simply arrived at a different conclusion.

We can’t work towards agreement around that which we disagree on when we already believe we know the truth of what another believes. The only way to know the meaning or reason behind what someone says or why someone believes what they believe is to ask them.

The first step on the path to Right Understanding is admitting "I don’t know". The next is "I wish to know". The only way to know is to admit your lack of knowledge and seek the answers.

This Could Help — New Book Available Today!

I have a new book I’m releasing today. It’s called, This Could Help.

Here’s what the book looks like:


There’s an eBook version too, of course. If you buy that one, it won’t look like this one. But, the stuff inside is just as helpful.

Here’s a bit from the introduction to give you an idea of what’s inside:

I’m going to try to keep this short so you can dig right in and see if there is something inside these pages that could help you. Let’s face it, we can always use a little help. A helpful idea or suggestion is sometimes all we need to set us in a positive direction. Every one of the essays and ideas presented here are things that I’ve had to figure out myself in order to solve a problem at some point along the way. So, my guess is that if I needed help in these areas along the way that others could benefit from that too.

The following is a combination of essays and ideas written over the past year or so and they certainly have the potential to help. Either to solve a problem you are facing right now or provide guidance for navigating through one in the future. Many of these have been published in various forms scattered amongst the places I frequent on the Internet. Some, have not. But all have been collected here in a way I feel serves those that need it most and the individual items best. I sincerely hope that you will find something within these pages that makes a difference.

It’s available right now in Paperback, ePub, and Kindle. More formats will be coming soon but that’s in the hands of the various eBook stores.

That said, I highly recommend the Paperback version. It features the beautiful cover and layout work of the best designer you should be using, Aaron Mahnke of Wet Frog Studios. . To sweeten the deal, you can get 30% off through today by using the offer code, FLASH30.

Regardless, I appreciate your even considering a purchase. The best gift you could give any writer is an engagement with the words they write. So thank you for yours.

The Right Words

My friend Michael and I had not a dinner together in a while. We had a regular dinner appointment on the second Tuesday of the month for years. But, then, life got in the way — mostly Michael’s. It changed rather dramatically a few months back. Not the least of which was being in a new relationship after years of not having been in one. So, I was willing to let our dinners take back seat. We’ve known each other for almost 20 years. He’d do the same for me.

So, it was great that we were finally able to get together recently over at a bistro near me. Dinner was great! Made especially good by the conversation. There was lot’s of catching up to do. We talked about life and love and creating the element of surprise in the seemingly mundane. We reminisced about the past and talked with excitement about future plans. Such things are what make a meal memorable.

But the memory of the evening that will stick out in my mind — the one that will last — came with desert. The waiter came over to ask if we wanted desert and describe our options. Among these was a type of pie neither Michael nor I had heard of before — Buttermilk Pie.

“What is that? I’ve never heard of it before.”, I asked. “What does it taste like?”

“It’s really hard to describe.”, explained the waiter. “But, I had a slice the other day and it is my new favorite pie. And, I’m not a big pie guy. If you order a slice. maybe you can weigh in.”

And, with that a gauntlet was thrown down — a challenge neither Michael nor I could refuse. The slices of pie were brought out and happily consumed. It was delicious. Yet, it was also immediately apparent why the waiter had such a hard time describing the taste. It was almost purposely elusive. The flavor was delicate. Not quite vanilla. Not sharp enough to even compare to a cheesecake. Nor was it creamy enough or sour enough or sweet enough to make an even comparison to anything else. It was almost cloud-like — etherial. Michael and I were both still at a loss when the waiter appeared again to take away our now empty plates.

“So, how’d you like it?”

“It was really good.”, I replied. Still unsure as to the answer to the obvious next question from the waiter.

“How would you describe it?”, he asked.

“It whispers tapioca.” Michael said with a sly smile after a considered pause. With those three words he completely nailed it. He managed to capture the entire experience of eating that slice of pie. He nailed the flavor, suggested the texture… All of it. The brilliance and exquisiteness of those three words left us speechless. Only nodding our heads in agreement and repeating them. It gave us all pause.

It is moments like this that I am reminded why I am a writer. I’m in love with and in awe of the power of language. The way a single word or just the right ones strung together can capture the whole of something otherwise only imagined. An entire experience can be encapsulated, examined, and then set free for others to bear witness to, all in an instant, with just three simple words.

This is why, as a writer, I keep a record of such reminders of this power. It’s a text file titled “Bits of Words and Wisdom”. Upon leaving the restaurant, adding “It whispers tapioca” to my file was my first priority. When I hear a cool word or interesting phrase that makes me stop and take notice — especially something that captures the imagination — I add it to this list. Sometimes, it is something from a conversation like the above. Increasingly, it is something I read — be it a book, a Tweet, or on a blog post. Sometimes it is from a video or something recorded. No matter the source it is added to this file soon after encountering it. Expedience is key, lest I forget it and lose it forever. Because these are the times to remember that words matter. Words mean things far beyond what you may find in a dictionary. Words are triggers and keys that blow open barriers and unlock doors to entire unknown universes.

The right ones are, at least.

I’m a writer. Writing is how I make this world better, friendlier, stronger place. If these words improved your day, please let me know by contributing here.

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